Mundy at the Irish Arts Center

How it’s New York:     At the Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish:  Irish singer/songwriter Mundy

It’s always a treat when Edmund Enright (aka Mundy) comes to town, and his kickoff to his current American tour at the Irish Arts Center on June 7th was no exception!

Opening the night was the duo August Wells comprised of singer/songwriter Kenneth Griffin and keyboardist John Rauchenberger.  I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of them before, as their music was great, and their sound bold and rich.

August Wells – Kenneth Griffin and John Rauchenberger

Kenneth’s soaring vocals particularly intrigued me on their song Here in the Wild from their CD Madness is the Mercy, from which most of the songs in their set came.  I’m loving listening to the CD and will definitely check them out in person again!  You can find them here: August Wells

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Caroline’s On Broadway Presents Des Bishop

How it’s New York: Caroline’s has been entertaining local audiences for over three decades

DES BISHOP

How it’s Irish: Des Bishop and all of the comedians on the bill are Irish-American

Des Bishop at Caroline’s on Broadway
Saturday, June 24, 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Sunday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.
1626 Broadway, New York
212-757-4100

Caroline’s kept it all in the hilarious (Irish-American) family Friday night and for headliner Des Bishop, that was literal as he shared the bill with his brother Aidan, and their much-abused mum was in the audience. Friday kicked off the first of five shows the lads are doing over the weekend, with Brendan Fitzgibbons as host for the evening.

Fitzgibbons, a Chicago native, warmed up the room with crowd work, showing no love for Wisconsin or New Jersey. Having lived in both states I say fair. Now calling Crown Heights in Brooklyn home, Fitzgibbons explained that his current roommates are all women, which his friends told him sounded awful. His take on the difference between living with women (his current roommates) and with guys:

“I have a safe place for my emotions. Beats being called gay whenever I asked about the weather.”

Although most people in the room last night were fans, for those unfamiliar with the Bishop brothers’ story, they were raised in Queens but spent large parts of their youth and adult years in Ireland. Aidan Bishop, the younger of the two, has been living in Dublin for the last 14 years. He’s worked steadily as a comedian in Europe, creating a one-man show that went to the Edinburgh Fringe and is perhaps best known as the resident MC at the International Comedy Club in Dublin.

Of his unmistakable Flushing accent Bishop remarked, it’s “the least intelligent accent on the planet. You’d never hear it on the Discovery Channel.” About a decade ago, when he was in his late 20s, Bishop, who had struggled as a student, learned for the first time he was dyslexic, which was life-changing for him and also a source for comedic gold.

“When I had to look up ‘dyslexia’ on Google, it was the most patronizing ‘did you mean?’ ever! Fuck you, Google!”

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Review: Sinking Ship’s ‘A Hunger Artist’ feeds the soul

How it’s New York: The show takes place at the Connelly Theater, one of those theaters inside an old school (?) you may never

Jon Levin in ‘A Hunger Artist.’ Photo by
Kelly Stuart

have known was there but is wonderful, and is presented by The Tank’s Flint & Tinder series, which makes space available to artists.
How it’s Irish: It’s Celto-Slav, really. But the Irish do have an affinity for Kafka.

Sinking Ship Productions
The Connelly Theater
220 East Fourth Street (between Avenues A & B)
Through Tuesday, June 27
Presented by The Tank

 

Sinking Ship Productions adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” makes you want to stand up and cheer.

It’s only June and I’m calling it now as possibly the best solo performance of the year.

It’s smart. It’s funny (and Kafka is really funny. Seriously, he is. The word “Kafkaesque” really should mean dread AND FUNNY, not just  scary as Hell. Though it’s scary as Hell too).

And it’s highly theatrical.

Inventive. Fresh. Physical.

Presented by The Tank, at the Connelly Theater (one of those theaters in an old building you probably have never been to), this is a work that is everything new theater should be.

And astonishingly, all of the roles are played by performer Jonathan Levin, including the fat producer, and the skeletal Hunger Artist. (more…)

Donovan at The Cutting Room!

How it’s New York: Donovan made a rare New York City appearance this past Tuesday, June 6th. It’s said that it’s Donovan who wrote the words on the cue cards that Dylan tosses accompanying the masterful “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” in D.A. Pennebaker’s film “Don’t Look Back”. That scene was shot here in New York City.
How it’s Irish: Donovan now lives in County Cork, Ireland, with his family.

Donovan played all his big hits this past Tuesday at a sold out show at New York City’s The Cutting Room. The audience was full of fans who were excited to hear Donovan who rarely plays live.

It was just Donovan and his acoustic guitar for the evening. He opened with the beautiful “Catch The Wind” and ended the night with “Sunshine Superman”, “Season Of The Witch” and lastly “Atlantis”.

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Enter Enda Walsh’s “Rooms” for an interesting hour of introspection

A Girl’s Bedroom.

How it’s New York: At New York’s Irish Arts Center

How it’s Irish: By Irish playwright Enda Walsh

On a dreary New York afternoon this past Saturday I took a diversion for an hour into the “Rooms” of playwright Enda Walsh. The piece, running at Cybert Tire on 11th Avenue, the future home of the Irish Arts Center, is contained in three plain white boxes which house the story and belongings of 3 different people.

The audience is encouraged to enter the rooms and explore, touch and take in the items in the room.  An audio track plays giving each story in the voices of the inhabitants: a woman in her kitchen, a child in her bedroom and a man in a hotel room.

A kitchen.

Much like being in an art gallery, we wandered around the environments looking to see what they told us of the people that Walsh wanted to show us.  The stories are a bit sad and stark, but you do get a sense of these people and the lives they have lived in these spaces. (more…)

‘Emerald City’ – A Cinematic Gem That May Speak for a Generation

How it’s New York: A New York story shot on location in the Big Apple.
How it’s Irish: Written and directed by a native of Tyrone, and featuring an ensemble of Irish actors.

Some of the cast and crew at the recent London Film Festival.

For an Irish emigrant in the latter half of the 20th century, there was a supposed ‘holy triumvirate’ of occupations that one could, not so much enjoy, but experience. Three jobs the weary long-term ‘visitor’ has, over generations, been either, welcome to try his hand at, or been firmly nudged towards, due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. There’s the pulling of pints and there’s the moving of furniture. Then there is the knocking down, and building up of; walls, ceilings, floors, apartments, skyscrapers, neighborhoods and entire cities. See, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve torn things down, and built them up. Whether it be buildings and businesses, or friendships and families. We’ve held them together, and torn them apart, for over 200 years in this town. This home from home, this Big Apple, this ‘Emerald City’.
Writer/director Colin Broderick, one of those unique breeds, a County Tyrone-born and reared New Yorker, has set out to tell a tale or three, involving several memorable characters from this, his first movie, detailing the lives and loves of an ageing Irish construction crew. ‘Emerald City’ expertly weaves a number of storylines together into a colorful tapestry, one that is rich in character and colorful of language. It is as much a tribute to the immigrants who came and stayed and those who never made it back, as it is to Broderick’s beloved New York.  This is where he, before honing his skills as an acclaimed writer of two biographical works (‘Orangutan’ and ‘That’s That’) and a number of plays, worked in the construction industry, where ideas for many of his characters no doubt, first developed.  (more…)

Sephira cuts a rug

Sephira will appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday. (Image courtesy of Sephira/Tad Management)

How it’s New York: Sephira will be performing at the Cutting Room on March 16.
How it’s Irish: Ruth and Joyce O’Leary are natives of County Monaghan, and their playing style fuses traditional Celtic music with classical, rock and folk. Before striking out on their own as Sephira, they performed with Celtic Thunder.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Sephira will be bringing their unique blend of violin and vocals to stages in New York.

The duo of vocalist-violinist sisters Ruth and Joyce O’Leary is currently touring the United States. They have three albums to their credit, the most recent being Eternity.

New York Irish Arts spoke to Ruth and Joyce on Wednesday, just before they were to appear at the Cutting Room on Thursday.

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Lúnasa and Karan Casey at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall – Friday March 3, 2017

How it’s New York: At Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City
How it’s Irish: Irish Trad Super Group Lúnasa and Irish Singer Karan Casey

At Carnegie Hall! left to right Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Colin Farrell, Ed Boyd, Trevor Hutchinson

On a windy New York Friday night there was nothing better than being enveloped in the fiery tunes pouring forth from Lúnasa on their 20th Anniversary tour at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.  Clearly chuffed to be playing this historic venue, they launched straight into a set of tunes driven by the “pied piper” Kevin Crawford on whistle.

The program was a delightful romp through their catalog including sets of tunes from Scotland, Galicia in Spain, Brittany and original compositions from piper Cillian Vallely written for his daughters.  The crowd was clapping along throughout and Crawford kept the pace of the show lively and peppered with his hilarious repartee. (more…)

Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone – We have Declan O’Rourke

How it’s New York: The performance took place at The Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish: Declan O’Rourke is Irish

I saw the wonderful Declan O’Rourke at the Irish Arts Center on Sunday night at his final performance of a three night run as part of their Valentine’s weekend programming.

Declan O'Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

The show opened with a 12-piece orchestra playing a piece composed for the evening. This was followed by the arrival of the very large presence of O’Rourke on stage. With the stance and posture of an ancient Irish warrior he opened the set with the very somber and haunting, “Her Silken Brown Hair”, which sounds more like a traditional Irish ballad than something penned by a 39-year-old.

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New Book on Irish Music by L.E. McCullough

How it’s New York:  Latest book from L.E. McCullough focuses on Irish-American musical heritage
How it’s Irish:  2-volume set offers 4 decades of Irish music scholarship

___________________________

L.E. McCullough started writing about Irish Traditional Music in 1974.

He hasn’t stopped yet.

What Whistle-Flyer 150dpi-trimA new publication titled “What Whistle Would You Play at Your Mother’s Funeral? — L.E. McCullough’s Writings on Irish Traditional Music, 1974-2016″ gathers in two volumes the more than 300,000 words on Irish music and culture the prolific musician/scholar has published in 43 years of teaching and research.

Published by Silver Spear Publications in PDF and paperback formats, Volume I contains Dr. McCullough’s three major academic works — his landmark Ph.D. dissertation (Irish Music in Chicago: An Ethnomusicological Study) and earlier M.A. and B.A. theses (The Rose in the Heather: Irish Music in Its American Cultural Milieu and Farewell to Erin: An Ethnomusicological Study of Irish Music in the U.S.).

Volume II, subtitled “Everything Else”, covers a wide range of Irish music performers, instrument-makers and music events — 122 essays and reviews, journal articles and concert reports, blog reflections, album notes, newspaper features, seminar presentations, whistle-playing tips … and a screenplay.

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Laoisa Sexton brings her new play “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal” to the Irish Rep

pigeon-art
How it’s New York: At the Irish Rep in New York
How it’s Irish: Written by and starring Irish Actor and Writer Laoisa Sexton

Slung over the shoulder of her erstwhile brutish boyfriend, actress/playwright Laoisa Sexton makes her entrance in her new play falling into a drunken heap in the corner of the stage.  Dressed in a cotton candy confection of a hen-night costume, she is the text-book example of the fake-tanned rambunctious dolly having the last gasp before taking the plunge into marriage.  But there is much more than a typical hen-night-gone-wrong story here.

Laoisa Sexton and Zoë Watkins in The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal

Sexton weaves a tale of love, loss, yearning, awakening and abject despair all wrapped up in a big ball of comedy.  A wild ride she takes along with the hilarious John Keating as Pigeon, and the raucous and ribald Zoë Watkins as Aunty Rosie and Johnny Hopkins as the brutish boyfriend Josie.  There is a fragility to both Lolly and Pigeon that draws them together and makes them seem to instantly understand each other. Keating gives a stellar performance in the first quarter of the play which is a monologue of his life and isolation, all the while talking to and trying to to prop up the living Barbie Doll that has been dropped into his lap.

Run to see it in its limited run now through December 31st.  You can get tickets here – Irish Rep Tickets

I got to chat with Laoisa about her journey, the play and women in Irish theater…

AF: Laoisa, tell me a bit about your journey to New York and history of shows here? What drove you to come here?

Laoisa: I’m not very good at making plans, much better at the dreams. Like, I didn’t really ever have a plan like to come to New York or to leave Ireland. These days I seem to be always coming and going, leaving for somewhere else, but that’s the way isn’t it?  We moved a lot when I was a kid too, we’d move at  least once a year- I went to tons of different schools and lived all over Ireland.  I suppose deep down I don’t really like staying in the same place, for too long.  I was going to be a ballet dancer for a while, but after being in a ballet of “The Playboy of The Western World I went into acting. I suppose I initially came to NY because I wanted to go to a good drama school to study. I figured Marlon Brando studied acting there and he is the best so that’s what I should do, no joke like. My Mam was a dancer and she was into the arts, she would always encourage me to do my thing and do it my own way, ye know. She would be doing the ironing, blasting Rachmaninoff or Swan Lake or Broadway Shows and tell me stories about who played what part.  She always had stories about all these actors and films and all these stories excited me and lit a fire in me. If I told her I wanted to swing on a moonbeam she’d say what are you waiting for, go do it?

AF: What do you think you have to say to an American audience?

Laoisa: As a playwright you mean?  As an artist I think you reflect what you see and want and present that in your own way. And if you’re a good one (artist), someone could probably spot that it’s you, before they know you wrote it, you sung it, you danced it – painted it etc. I think you have to feel very strong about something to do anything in the arts. Especially making something.

Theatre is a place where you can travel, but as an art form it can sometimes not reflect what we know. I want to show you what life is like now. I’m not writing ‘about Ireland’ I’m writing about human beings who happen to live there.

I write plays that I want to go see in a theatre. I want to be entertained, to laugh, to cry, to dance- to be moved to be taken away from here- and we all know that does not always happen but that’s what I strive to write. The plays I write are often described as modern.  I also like to play with language and character.

I would love to be able to write a play and have it like a song, you know the way you feel when you listen to a song and all it that conjures up in you, if I could do that -that would make me very happy.  Like when I was in drama school I used to do Tom Waits songs as monologues, my teacher would say “what’s that from?” And I’d lie and say it was from a film or something cos she would kill me if I said a song.  But that is what I strive for with my plays that they can do what a song can do to a person, .if that makes sense?

But I’m gonna show an American audience real Ireland, the Ireland I know or have seen and experienced, and that might not be what an American audience is used to.  It might not be a world they want to go to or let themselves go to as freely as what they are used to from an Irish play.  But it’s like acting, you know, the writing has to be honest and truthful and cross-cultures. Cos it’s about the human condition. Audiences always know if you are lying. Its new writing and you might be breaking new ground and that can be vital.

I suppose my plays have a very working class sensibility to them too, so that might not always be someone’s cup of tea. I always write from a place and I love to tinker with that language from that place and that will be the rhythm of the piece. I am very particular in that way with everything I write.

Ye know it’s funny with US critics they want to compare it to something they have seen before Enda Walsh or some other Irish fella? Put it in some Irish box that they feel they have somewhat of a grasp on. I mean I remember someone said about the women in my play “For Love” could have been from anywhere- but that’s exactly the point, ye know, the play was about love and sex and yearning and is love not universal? Who cares that it takes place in Dublin, why do we always have the Irish stamp on it? It’s just a place but it’s still people dealing with real human issues, getting hurt and making mistakes…

Theater is so commercial, especially in New York; new writing can be a challenge for everybody both to produce and to support. I mean look at Broadway movies being turned into Broadway shows like as if there is no other writing out there …these stories keep being told over and over and in the same way… and everyone keeps buying these $400 tickets to see the story they have already seen because…because I don’t know cos it feels comfortable, I don’t know.

New plays are a challenge but there is an urgency to new writing cos you are showing real life and what life is like now, but it can also divide people here as they might not be ready for it. Irish plays that are presented in the US can be conservative, but I want to show what my generation looks like, in its modern poetry.

But with new plays you are gonna be met with heartache and perhaps incomprehension and having to explain things you’d much rather let be. But you only ever do anything because you have to do it.

AF:  Tell me about the play “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal” and what it took to bring it here?

“The Pigeon in The Taj Mahal” is a story about a bride to be, I’m playing Lolly who has lost the rest of her Hen party and finds herself in the company of a very strange man who has sort of come to her rescue. And in turn they both sort of rescue each other.

They are both from very different worlds, he is mentally challenged and she is a settled traveller from Limerick. She has lost her phone so she can’t get home and he is cut off from modern life and only experiences glimpses of it as the modern world finds him. But eventually the Hen party comes to the caravan and mayhem ensues as they all must learn to communicate.

It’s a clash of worlds coming together, mythology against technology, community based folklore and contemporary modern speech set in grinding poverty. It’s dark and funny and touching and is sort of a Fucked up love story of sorts.

The script was picked up by The Irish Repertory Theatre. They offered me a reading of the play as part of their New Works Reading Series. Then after the reading they wanted to produce it, it took a few months to schedule it, as they were out of their space and were moving back into their newly renovated home so it was on hold for a bit.  But it is a huge honor to be included in their first season in their new space, especially as this play is new and risky and dangerous.

The first play I appeared as an actress at The Rep was 2009 and now 7 yrs. later, here I am. I have had two plays produced by them, that feels so wild. It’s a very special experience always at The Rep as they have so much respect for artists and the work itself. It’s always loving and it comes in abundance from the top, the legends that are Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’ Reilly.  Maybe because they are both performers themselves, but it’s a house of love. Every actor loves working at The Rep, its pure family there.

AF: Can you talk a bit about the rising movement in Dublin for women’s equality in the theatre and how that affects you as an actress and playwright?

Laoisa: I’m not sure I am an authority to speak on it’s progress per se, there are women involved who would be more able to speak on what has been put in place far better than I could.  I have not seen any real changes as far as I am concerned me being an individual artist. I certainly feel it’s great that the discussion is finally open for gender equality in the arts.  I always thought that it was unfair, especially with Irish plays and Irish films, they are always male heavy in terms of the ratio of male actors to female actors. And they very seldom cast Irish actresses- they will cast all the female roles out of the Uk or the US anywhere but Ireland. It’s not for want of talent, there is huge talent in Ireland. But it seems a lot of Irish male directors prefer not to cast young Irish actresses. And people don’t even notice it, seriously look at the top Irish films in the last few decades, you won’t have to look far to see what I mean. I don’t think we should be Ok with that. Also I think as women, we are brought up to fight over a few scraps so it causes women not to support other women and that in itself is a huge problem but its been going on for so long no one notices. I mean how can you support a female playwright- go see her show-Buy a ticket… Ye know its not that hard, but some people who are protesting would not even give you a like on Facebook!

For me, I just decided to put my head down and do the work and try to make the changes in my way, write stuff with good female roles and with stories about women or with women in them. Do that and that will be my contribution. its not easy at all, its very very hard.

I mean look at every show on HBO, it’s always the same. Big mean enigmatic misogynistic bad guy, and his long suffering wife who puts up with all his indiscretions, then all his girlfriends or hookers who supply the T & A, and then the bulk of the story is him an and his male mates doing male things.  I mean it’s the basis for most storytelling on TV; it needs to be changed up a bit… But audiences have a responsibility too, they need to get out there and support female artists, you know buy a ticket, so see a female perform…turn off some of that Shite…that’s my feeling anyways.

This is my third produced play Off Broadway in NYC and my first two plays were critically acclaimed and I still cannot get an Irish Theatre to read one!

I am living back in Dublin now and I hope that will change and that my work will be seen there.  Ireland is tiny, and the companies that are heavily funded that can afford to produce plays there, all have their own writers they work with or who they commission, (same with film companies) and artists they work with, ye know. I mean look at Druid it’s always the same actors, and of course it is, because they all work well together so ye know if it ain’t broke…  But certainly it makes it very daunting to try and crack that, so you end up having to make your own work to at even get your work seen and that’s no easy feat…  I mean how do you get a play produced? The Fuck if I know!

AF:  Where do you find your inspiration for what you write about and do you think your experience as an actress in other people’s pieces helps inform your own writing?

Laoisa:The Pigeon in The Taj Mahal” was inspired by where I grew up and to all those misfits and aliens out there who are misunderstood. Also I get inspiration from music a lot and from places and images, maybe  I’ll start with an image…, my first play was inspired by a Rhianna song ‘we found love in a hopeless place…hopeless place’ summed it all up.

I have a fourth play Ave Maria”, and it is inspired by the Ave Maria statue on Clontarf beach.  It’s a play about an alcoholic narcissist who thinks he’s got depression but it might just be he’s an alcoholic.  It’s also about all the women in his life, social media and how it feeds into a particular sort of dangerous narcissism. And it’s a comedy of course.

I am definitely a performer first, because of that I have an ear for dialogue and as a performer you have an added sense of how provocative you can be and what you can achieve in a Theater. Maybe visually or technically I don’t know how people write plays or films who are not performers or not in the business or have never had any theater background, one informs the other as far as I am concerned.”

AF: Which do you prefer, acting or writing?

Laoisa: Acting definitely, I absolutely hate writing, it’s so hard and so solitary and you pour your heart out and strip it of all its tendrils and leave it there bare and twitchy.  Then you have to go back and cut into it further, a big deep cut… and go back to it again and again and again.  It’s such hard work. I only ever look forward to getting on those boards, that’s all I am thinking about the whole way. I write to perform

AF: Could you see one of your pieces making the jump to film?

Laoisa: Yes of course, I actually wrote my first play “For Love” into a film and then into a TV series, but I got turned down by several production companies and producers because they compared it to Girls or Sex and The City, Ye know cos it had 3 women in it, that’s all anyone thinks, it’s crazy even though mine was about three working class women from inner-city Dublin trying to make it through.

Everyone has a different way of looking at things and people don’t see what you see, I used to think Oh maybe they are not seeing it cos it’s a fault in the writing and it’s not clear, but it’s not that at all, its cos everyone is coming from other places and maybe don’t have the experiences you have no matter how deeply you describe it, they cannot see it.

It’s like sometimes people will go to my plays and say “your play is hilarious” and I will be like, Ok so you got like 2 percent of what I was trying to say…but ye know that’s the way she goes…

I am writing a screenplay currently based on the self-funded tour of “For Love”.  We went on tour across Ireland in 2013 after the Off Broadway run, without a director or stage manager. It was a complete disaster!  I mean not critically, the play was lauded, but there was a lot of out of control egos, narcissism and drama taking place off-stage. It will also be based on some other tours I’ve been on… Needless to say it’s a black comedy and a theatrical road trip with a group of motley actors; I am hoping to send it into the Irish film board in the next few months.

AF: What do you want people to take away from “The Pigeon in the Taj Mahal”?

Laoisa: I’m not sure I can answer that, it’s not something I can do, ye know we just be doing our thing every night and hopefully somebody out there in the dark will be listening and involved and cine away with us- Hopefully they will feel something.  Even if they throw a shoe at me, at least I know something has risen.  At least I will know we were there!

 

Irish Screen America Festival – NY Friday September 30th through Sunday October 2nd. – NYU Cantor Film Center

How it’s New York: At the Cantor Film Center at New York University
How it’s Irish: Presenting the best of current Irish Film and Media

Print   I had a blast covering the 2016 Irish Screen America Festival in New York at the NYU Cantor Film Center. 

The Festival is the brainchild of Irish film-maker/producer Niall McKay and his Deputy Director Clodagh Bowyer.  There was an entertaining collection of films, shorts, television and an insight-filled panel discussion to boot.  Have a look at their trailer to get a taste of what they are about.

Irish Screen America Trailer

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‘New York City: A Shining Mosaic’ review

How it’s New York: Tales of immigrants who arrived in New York City.
New York City: A Shining Mosaic produced by Charles Hale. September 27, 2016. 1st Irish Theatre Festival. Featuring Niamh Hyland, Walter Parks, Elsa Nilsson, Eleanor Dubinsky, Laura Neese, John Duddy, Jack O'Connell, Mala Waldron, Yuri Juárez, Julie Kline, and Charles Hale at Pier A Harbor House, New York City.

Photo courtesy of Mitch Traphagen.

How it’s Irish: Those arriving left lives behind in Ireland. This piece was part of Origin Theatre’s 1st Irish 2016.

Were this event staged a few years back, before the advent of the so-called “information age,” there’s quite a chance that attendees of this extraordinary production may well have invited encyclopedia salesmen into their home, to peruse their wares, and purchase a volume or two, to look up a few of the fascinating tidbits that Charles R. Hale’s modern masterpiece had informed them of.

“New York City: A Shining Mosaic” is so much more than a play: it is a series of vignettes, a song and dance revue, a carefully interwoven collection of biographies of several characters, some seen, others merely mentioned.

It is a story which unravels elegantly, a timeless tale that reminds us that there were generations here before us, dozens, scores, hundreds of them: men and women who had less, but yearned for more. Brooklyn had them by the thousands. :New York City: A Shining Mosaic,” directed by Niamh Hyland (music), Julie Kline and Charles R. Hale, is brought to us by Artists Without Walls, and is a production celebrated aptly right within sight of the arrival of all of those millions of immigrants who made it to New York, at Pier A, which looks out on New York Harbor, with Lady Liberty and Ellis Island calmly watching in the wings.

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“Crackskull Row” at Origin’s 1st Irish Theatre Festival

How it’s New York: Written by New York based playwright and author Honor Molloy and performed as part of Origin Theatre Company’s 1st Irish Festival 2016 in New York City
How it’s Irish: Set in Dublin in 1999
Terry Donnelly & Colin Lane (photo by Michael Bonasio)

Terry Donnelly & Colin Lane (photo by Michael Bonasio)

The rough-hewn walls, threadbare curtains and dilapidated leather sofa set the stage for an intense slice of Dublin life in Honor Molloy‘s play “Crackskull Row”.  The show opens with the long absent son/narrator Rasher Moorrigan (played by John Charles McLaughlin) giving exposition on the state of the family and the addled and fragile remains of his mother that we are about to meet.

Terry Donnelly stars as Masher, the mother of the piece, pining for bygone days, lost love and absent children.  She’s worn down to a nub of herself and hides everything she needs within the confines of the couch where she sits, sleeps, and eats.  A hardscrabble woman who was a bit of a “dolly” in her day, she imagines her daughter (played by Gina Costigan) doting on her and her absent son (played by Colin Lane/John Charles McLaughlin) fulfilling her desires and fuelling her frustrations.

This play attacks your senses and sensibility with both barrels and it’s hard to tell at times what is real and what is not.  A daughter appears, but is she real?  There seems to be a strange relationship between the mother and son.  How did the long-dead father really die?  And why has Rasher come back? (more…)